Inside Evin by Ramin Jahanbegloo


A few days before my eventual release, I put pen to paper for the last time within the walls of Evin Prison, and on a little torn-off piece of a Kleenex box, wrote an aphorism: ‘A philosopher puts himself in danger because of his thoughts; for his philosophy is like a tightrope on which he walks, with the world threatening deep below.’ My ideas had landed me in this prison. To get out I would have to convince my captors that I regretted having these thoughts. No other lifeline remained.

Early morning on April 27, 2006, I was on my way to Brussels to attend a conference. Inside Mehrabad airport in Tehran, after I had checked in my luggage and gone through the security check, I was approached by four men. One of them came up and called me by my first name. ‘Ramin, could you follow us?’ he said. I looked them over quickly: they wore ordinary suits without ties, and they all had beards, giving them an oddly generic quality. The one who had spoken stood impatiently waiting for me to com­ply. ‘I’ll miss my plane’, I said. ‘We just want to ask you a few questions’. People around us were watch­ing, but nobody moved. Quickly I realised that I had no choice but to go with them.

I was led to a waiting car. Two of the men sat in the front as driver and passenger, and the other two got in the back with me, keeping me in the middle. Then they pushed my head down and the car took off toward another part of the airport, to a garage where another car was waiting. Here, with fewer people around, the men became more aggressive, pulling me out of the car and throwing me into the other one. Again they put my head down and this time one of them covered my head with his blazer. This blazer, which smelled of rotten onions, had a hole in it, so that I could see one of the rear windows. The car left the airport very quickly and soon we were on the highway, heading for northern Tehran. Then I heard one of them say into a walkie-talkie: ‘We have the package. The package is arriving.’

I was terrified, and feared for my life. I knew there had been cases in Iran where people had been taken away like this and executed without notice or trial. Their mutilated bodies were found in suburban areas of Tehran. Abduc­tors similar to these men, who by now I knew had to be intelligence offic­ers, had been picking up intellectuals and activists and killing them on the spot. An agitated voice kept escaping from me, though I felt I was not speaking. It kept echoing, bouncing around inside the car, falling back into my throat and escaping again—‘Where are you taking me? Where are you taking me?’ And the simple, hollow reply: ‘Shut up,’ over and over again.

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